NEW ORLEANS — Sports media blowhards might want to debate whether or not he’s “elite.”
Teammate Terrell Suggs coined the phrase “Flacco-ing” to describe how the quarterback can answer questions for 30 straight minutes without changing his expression.
Even his father said he’s dull.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco might not ever be a Super Bowl quarterback in the romantic sense like Tom Brady, Joe Montana, or Joe Namath, but Lombardi Trophies aren’t given out for anything but having more points than your opponent at the end of the game.
“I don’t really care,” Flacco said this week about the public perception of him. “I’m just going to let my play speak for itself. You guys can all talk about that.
“If we come out here and play the game the way we should and the way we can, then I don’t care and I don’t think anyone else is going to care. We’re going to be feeling pretty good about ourselves and what we accomplished.”
Style points and perception don’t matter. Results do. That’s basically the way the postseason has gone for the Ravens and, especially, Flacco.
In successive weeks, Flacco has outplayed more heralded quarterbacks Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, and Brady — the latter two wins coming on the road against first-ballot Hall of Famers.
A victory over the 49ers Sunday would tie Flacco with Brady as the only quarterbacks to win nine games in their first five postseasons.
“I am a little biased when it comes to Joe,” linebacker Ray Lewis said. “This guy has been proven since day one. It’s never been one man that has won or lost the game. It’s always been a team that wins or loses a game.
“So, anytime you want me to talk about Joe Flacco, I am telling you that I am talking about a kid with every skill, every tool physically. This year, he took the next step in maturing as a man, and really understanding what a leader has to do.
“That’s why our offense is clicking the way it’s clicking, and that’s why Joe is playing the way Joe is playing.”
When the Ravens had the 18th overall pick in the 2008 draft, their starting quarterbacks in the 12 previous seasons, since the franchise’s inception in Baltimore in 1996, were: Vinny Testaverde, Eric Zeier, Jim Harbaugh, Tony Banks, Stoney Case, Trent Dilfer, Scott Mitchell, Elvis Grbac, Randall Cunningham, Jeff Blake, Chris Redman, Kyle Boller, Anthony Wright, Steve McNair, and Troy Smith.
Not exactly the stuff that dynasties are made of. And general manager Ozzie Newsome knew enough was enough. He fell in love with a 6-foot-6-inch kid from Division 1-AA Delaware — not exactly a hotbed for NFL quarterbacks — who had transferred out of the University of Pittsburgh after failing to beat out the immortal Tyler Palko there.
“Well, we had made enough mistakes on quarterbacks that we kind of had an idea of what we wanted to look for,” Newsome said. “The thing we saw about Joe — he had the physical skills, but he had a lot of poise and he was very accurate. The other physical abilities would take care of themselves.”
The Ravens haven’t had another starting quarterback since drafting Flacco.
San Francisco defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who will try to develop a plan to limit Flacco in the Super Bowl, was a special assistant for the Ravens when Flacco arrived.
“Right from the beginning, I was very impressed with him,” Fangio said. “He has a big arm, throws the ball very easily and naturally. He’s calm. He’s knowledgeable. The game is not too big for him.
“In fact, I told [Ravens coach] John Harbaugh early on in the process, the first offseason we were there with him, he has his horse that he can ride the next 10 to 15 years as his quarterback in Baltimore.
“He’s one of the few quarterbacks in the NFL that can throw the ball outside the numbers — the deep outs, the deep comeback and the deep ends — with proficiency. A lot of times you’re afraid to do [that] or don’t have quarterbacks that can do that.
“He kind of reminds me of Troy Aikman in that respect. When Troy was in his heyday, they’d run the ball, run the ball, then throw the ball outside deep and make you pay for playing the run too much. Joe is the perfect fit for their offense.”
Flacco’s ability to, at any moment, throw with velocity and accuracy to every part of the field makes him very tough to defend. He’s always had that ability. The difference this year is that Flacco, though he made the AFC Championship game as a rookie, has slowly increased his feel for the game and confidence as the Ravens advanced to the divisional round, conference championship, and now Super Bowl in successive years.
And the switch from Cam Cameron to Jim Caldwell as offensive coordinator late this season has opened up some higher-percentage throws in the middle of the field.
“Joe has transformed us in a lot of ways,” Harbaugh said. “It’s been a process and Joe has been hugely successful doing it. Obviously he’s got talent, everyone can see he’s a big strong guy, he can throw the ball, he’s accurate, he’s a tough competitor, he’s a winner, he’s a leader. He embodies the things that the Ravens are always about.”
That may not mesh with what some people want to see in a matinee idol quarterback, but the results speak for themselves. Just ask one of Flacco’s predecessors with the Ravens: 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh.
“Outstanding quarterback. Winning quarterback,” he said. “Tremendous habit of success, and he’s left a trail of that behind him and he continues to do so.
“Tremendous throwing action, arm talent, and a winning quarterback.
“I mean, he’s a football player. I don’t know if you can give a guy a higher compliment than that. He certainly is.”